Triangle Chatter

No, really. This stuff is cool - and it's right here.

NC Department of CommerceIn my job working with existing companies in the Research Triangle Region, I’m continually amazed by what is behind the doors of the mostly boring-looking, sometimes even dirty buildings that most of us pass each day.  When you see the processes, equipment and products being made or designed behind those drab walls, you say things like:  “That is seriously cool,” or “Wow!” or “Who knew?” 

However, I’ve realized that the more I share with family and friends about my job and “the fascinating company I visited today,” the more I believe that most people are unaware of what’s being made just up the street, that is, if they even realize people are still actually making stuff around here.  If I didn’t visit these companies on a weekly basis, I likely wouldn’t know either.  What I wore to my first meeting with a manufacturer proves it.  I mean, why wouldn’t I wear heels with my new skirt suit to visit a manufacturer’s offices because surely they wouldn’t take me out onto the floor where I might get dirty?  I know, ridiculous. What’s more, I think many people assume the same things I used to: 

1). Manufacturing is dead;

2). People working in manufacturing or in jobs where your hands might get dirty likely aren’t earning a middle, family-sustaining wage;

3). Manufacturers are not hiring, but gradually laying people off; and

4). People who work in those buildings use old equipment and/or do hard, manual labor

I was wrong (I hate writing that). But, based on what I was told in school, what I heard on the news about layoffs, and what adults around me said, how could I have known?  It is important to note that those around us make the assumptions above for a reason.  Parts of them are true.  North Carolina’s traditional manufacturing industries have moved their operations and jobs across the border, overseas, or whatever you like to call over-yonder-where-it’s-cheaper to do business (or more cost-competitive, if you prefer).  No, not all of the jobs that left have been replaced with new ones – but, in case you missed it, traditional was italicized in the sentence above.

People Take Note:  Outside of the “traditional section,” manufacturing is still here, alive and well in the Research Triangle Region and in this State. 

These companies are 21st Century-style and diverse in product offering.  I am proud to write about a sample of the hundreds – believing if I tell others about the pretty-dang-cool stuff they do, there’s a decent chance they will be pleasantly surprised and maybe even proud too.  If wooing people with remarkable products doesn’t do the trick, then I will also share that most of these manufacturers boast state-of-the-art, often computer-controlled equipment, that requires them to hire many more middle-wage earning employees than the traditional section did.  Plus, most require a high school diploma before they’ll even take a look.    

You know what else?   Manufacturers are hiring and get this:  throughout the recession, many have had jobs posted for months or years – some they still cannot fill – and no, it is not because the wages are low.  All of the following are in demand by regional manufacturers and earn above our region’s average wage:  maintenance managers, welders, mechanical techs, scientists, machinists, engineers, and the list goes on.  Also, keep in mind that hundreds of companies in other industries are thriving here because of the manufacturers:  product solutions firms, computer systems design shops, process improvement experts, etc.

Enough about my soap box, below is why I even have a soap box, why I love my job, and what I’m proud to say all lies within the thirteen counties of this region:

-         Esterline Defense TechnologiesDown in Lillington, Esterline manufactures radar countermeasure chaff that is dispensed by our military’s aircraft to decoy radar-seeking missiles.  Imagine:  an Al-Qaida member on the ground aiming a missile at one of our aircraft.  He sees it. Pilot deploys chaff. Aircraft disappears.  As my dad would say, “Boo-yahhh.”

-         P&G Pet Care: Located in Henderson in one of those old, kinda dirty-looking buildings (no offense).  The opposite lies those walls.  Not only do they have some of the most advanced technology and equipment I’ve seen, it is one of the cleanest places I’ve been, as no risks are taken when making food for your dogs and cats. If I was an engineering student, I’d try to intern here. The building is divided in two. No workers from one half of the building are allowed in the other half to avoid contamination.  Price of admission:  Hairnet, clean jacket, safety goggles, ear plugs, wash hands, and step in the box of blue cleaning beads. Don’t forget to make sure the beads touch the front, back and sides of your shoes.

-         Meridian 0 (Zero Degrees):  Down in Aberdeen, a company is revolutionizing self-service, kiosk solutions.  Not only does the company design software and engineer kiosks – they build them too, from the ground up.  Not impressed yet? Watch the video and you’ll see why companies like HP and Intel partner with Meridian to provide solutions for customers such as X-Box, Home Depot, Holiday Inn, Univ. of Virginia, Delta, McDonald’s, and Lexus.

-         John Deere:  Everyone may know the brand, but did you know that John Deere Turf Care manufactures commercial mowers used by landscaping contractors and specialized equipment used to maintain golf course greens right here in Fuquay-Varina? 

-         Nomacorc:  You know the synthetic cork you pulled out of the wine bottle last night? Chances are it was made in this region.  Nomacorc is the world’s leading provider of synthetic closure solutions for the wine industry.  Cool, huh?

-         Automatic Rolls:  Ever seen 3 stories of hamburger buns in a rotating oven?  I have.  Don’t worry, you didn’t miss the buns – that is if you ordered a hamburger at McDonald’s in the past two years.  Yup, made right there in Clayton.

-         Glen Raven:  Even if you never wondered where Sunbrella fabric came from, it is likely you sat on some out on the patio.  You guessed it!  Yarn for the fabric – made right in Warren County – on mega, high-tech spinning equipment.

-         AW North Carolina:  Have you ever ridden in or purchased a Toyota Camry, Tundra, Tacoma, or Sequoia?  If so, the vehicle’s transmission, and other related components were made at a facility that’s both incredibly huge and efficient, you might think it is Japanese…that is, Japanese in Durham.

-         Moen:  An entire display room of each faucet and plumbing fixture in every finish and color that Moen produces? Yes, sir.  Right beside the massive room where they are manufactured in Sanford.  Let’s just say my kitchen faucet cries in comparison…

-         FloorazzoIf you need surgery, of course you want the operating room to be lined with germ-proof, washable material.  Many of these rooms are made of terrazzo, which is traditionally poured on floors during hospital construction – or causes an operating room to be shut down during repairs.  Enter Floorazzo.  This Siler City Company manufactures pre-made terrazzo tiles that can be packaged and transported to the site, saving time and lost revenue for hospitals and related facilities. 

-         Revlon:  80% of what’s offered on every single one of Revlon’s product lines worldwide is made in Granville County.  BAM.  If that’s not impressive, then, well I’m concerned about what it takes to impress you.

I told you this stuff was cool.  Believe me yet?  There’s loads more where this came from.  Give me a call, I’m (clearly) happy to tell you all about it.

Author: Anna Lea Moore, Project Manager, Existing Industry, NC Department of Commerce's Research Triangle Region


  1. terry krauss's avatar
    terry krauss
    | Permalink

    great article! and some traditional manufacturing is coming back, particularly in textiles. if you are not aware, take a look at the work Harry Moser is doing with the Reshoring Initiative that he runs. He is known all over the USA, and has not been invited to speak in NC yet. I have been collaborating with him and maybe you guys would like to help organize something. I have him speaking at the annual Southern Textile Association meeting in SC, but would like to get him in front of a crowd in NC. I tried connecting him to Anita at the IEI so he could speak at the Forum next week, but could not pull it off.

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